Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


May 4, 2015

Motion 15 — Adult basic education programs

S. Simpson: In British Columbia we have some of the highest levels of inequality anywhere in this country. In British Columbia we have over half a million of our residents, our citizens, who live in poverty in this province.

Now we have a government that has rejected and refused to bring a poverty reduction strategy in, unlike every other province in the country that has done that. What they’ve said instead is that their notion for a poverty reduction strategy is a job. Fair enough.

However, we know the job market is flat. We know wages are flat. And we know people are struggling to find those elusive good-paying jobs this government talks about. Of the half a million people who live in poverty, half those families have a full-time paycheque coming into that household, but it’s a paycheque that does not deliver a standard of living that they’re looking for. It doesn’t make things work for that family. You have people in those families who want to upgrade, who want to improve their skills, who want to bring in a bigger paycheque.

The hypocrisy of what this government says with this decision, the contradiction, is that all of a sudden it’s going to cost you up to $1,600 a semester to get the adult basic education you require to upgrade, to get into many of those programs that Liberal members have been talking about in this debate — about skills training, about the blueprint, all programs that require levels of skill set that…. Many people will have got a Dogwood but will not have achieved that, will not have completed those courses. They’re now being told $1,600.

Now, we’re told that there’s a grant here to help people out. Well, let’s be clear about that grant. If you’re a single person and you make $12 an hour, you start losing your grant. You’re losing your grant. You lose it somewhere at about $11.75 an hour if you’ve got a full-time job. This is not about moving people forward. This is not about that success. What the government has done here in terms of putting these tuition fees in place has created a major impediment.

They have said to thousands of people, “You’re stuck in that job that you have, and there is no room for you,” because these people don’t have those thousands of dollars to support moving ahead. The government isn’t supporting them, and the grant program isn’t going to work for an awful lot of people.

We can go back to 2007, when ministers of this government were crowing about the fact that ABE was free. They were crowing about the fact that that would accomplish many objectives to give people the skill set, the fundamentals, to move on to get those jobs that we talk about in the blueprint now. That’s not reality for many of those people. It’s not reality because this government is going to put them in a place where they don’t get to take advantage of that.

The cost of this program…. The saving here is a little bit under $16 million. I know the Speaker has said we shouldn’t be talking about money and these bills, and that’s fine. But let’s be clear. Let’s just talk about what the saving is — about $16 million.

You have to ask yourself if it’s really about giving people the skill set to lift their families up, if it really is about people who are working hard and trying to be successful and need a little bit of help to get the education to be able to upgrade to that job that’s going to get them that $25 an hour maybe. Don’t you think that it would be worth $16 million across a $43 billion, $44 billion budget to create that opportunity?

It’s not an handout. It’s an investment. It’s an investment in people in this province. It’s an investment in the human spirit. It’s a investment in people who want to move ahead. Very little money relative to what we spend every day in this province.

Doesn’t the Liberal government just think for a minute that it would be a good idea to give people a chance to help themselves, to give people a chance to move forward because they have initiative? But instead, more roadblocks. More roadblocks in front of people — $1,600 a semester. That’s a stunning amount of money. You know, for somebody with kids, if you make $15 an hour, they start taking your grant away. Not much money if you’re living in British Columbia.

We need to do better. Doing better means creating opportunity for people who are prepared to grab it. This government has failed miserably in terms of how they’ve dealt with adult basic education. The program is in trouble. You’ve created the trouble. You should fix it.

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